Black Swan (2010) Director: Darren Aronofsky
Director Darren Aronofsky called Black Swan the natural counterpart to his other film about artistic perfection also released in 2010, The Fighter. The plot for Black Swan is based on an original story by Andres Heinz, who later became one of the screenwriters.
The film stars Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis in a plot focused on the deeply troubling psychological struggles faced by ballet dancers as they fight to achieve notoriety and perfection during a New York City performance of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. The lead ballerina (Portman), our protagonist, has hallucinations of sexual encounters, and begins a disturbing trend of self-harm without realizing it. She plays the White Swan, and is countered by another lead ballerina who plays the Black Swan. In the end, she fabricates a scene in which she breaks a mirror and stabs the Black Swan with a shard, only to find she has only stabbed herself (i.e. she kills herself for perfection). She delivers a flawless performance and passes out at the end as the staff rush to find medical help.
Natalie Portman delivers an excellent performance as a complex, and perhaps mentally ill character in the film. Black Swan was nominated for five Academy Awards. However, in its attempt to be overtly profound and intellectual, it winds up being an extremely heavy and darkly psychological film. I am left asking myself: what have I gained by watching it? Perhaps nothing other than a rekindled appreciation for the trials faced by prima ballerinas on the world’s stage. The film certainly stands out as unique in an era filled with all-too-commonplace films. Nevertheless this is not a film I would soon return to again.